US, Russia Hold Highest-Level Talks Since Ukraine War

US, Russia Hold Highest-Level Talks Since Ukraine War
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi, India, March 2, 2023. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Andrew Thornebrooke

The United States and Russia on March 2 held their highest level face-to-face talks since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov briefly on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in New Delhi.

There’s no indication of any easing in tension between the two powers, however. Likewise, the G-20 nations failed to reach any consensus on Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine or how to end it.

While the meeting failed to produce any tangible benefit for either side, it was a recognition that communications between the two powers haven’t closed completely. The exchange came amid heightened global tensions surrounding Russia’s nuclear threats.

Blinken said during a news conference following the meeting that he reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine and that Washington would continue pressing for a diplomatic conclusion to the war on Kyiv’s terms.

“[Russian] President Putin has demonstrated zero interest in engaging, saying there’s nothing to even talk about unless and until Ukraine accepts, and I quote, ‘the new territorial reality’.”

Blinken also urged Russia to reverse “its irresponsible decision” to suspend its involvement in the New START nuclear treaty, which limited the number and types of nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia could deploy.

“Mutual compliance is in the interest of both our countries,” he said.

“No matter what else is happening in the world, in our relationship, the United States is always ready to engage and act on strategic arms control, just as the United States and the Soviet Union did even at the height of the Cold War.”

Despite the failure to achieve consensus on Ukraine, Blinken said that it was a promising sign that 18 of the 20 nations had agreed on a statement calling for an end to the war.

For his part, Lavrov said that Russia would continue its military campaign in Ukraine, accused the United States of conducting “blackmail,” and mocked the U.S. dismissal of a so-called “peace plan” issued by China which blamed the West for Russia’s invasion.

It was the first time that Blinken and Lavrov have spoken since a phone call last year in which the United States and Russia agreed to a prisoner swap. In exchange for the release of basketball player Brittney Griner, the United States delivered notorious  Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

Blinken and Lavrov last met in person in Switzerland in January 2022. Talks at that time failed to deter Putin from invading Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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